Dressed to Kill

Serial killers who wore Prada.

Posted Jun 04, 2012

We know many addictions lead to tragedy and even death.  For example, it will probably come as no surprise that several serial killers had drug or alcohol problems, or were under the influence when they did their murderous deeds.  Shopping addiction and serial killing, however, are rarely uttered in the same sentence.  Perhaps, in some cases, they should be.

Dana Sue Gray

Dana Sue Gray murdered three elderly woman (and attacked a fourth) for their money.  Each murder was followed by a wild shopping spree, during which she charged thousands of dollars on her victims' credit cards and withdrew money from her victim's bank accounts. Apparently, the proverbial apple didn't fall far from the tree; her mother, Beverly, was described as a vain, aggressive woman who frequently maxed out her husband's charge cards and once throttled an older woman during an argument.

Barbara Stager

There is controversy over how many people a person has to kill to acquire the serial killer label.  If you fall in the "minimum of three" camp, then Barbara misses the cut by one.  However, there's little doubt that money was a major motive in the two husbands she did kill.  In her brief and troubled marriage to her second victim, Russell Stager, Barbara opened up credit cards without his knowledge and forged his name to a will and numerous checks.

According to several sources, Barbara's sense of self was completely enmeshed with the objects she owned and she seemed to have an uncontrollable urge to purchase luxurious presents for herself.  Her husband's resistance to her spendthrifting ways ultimately sealed his doom, although the insurance policies she took out on him were undoubtedly the icing on the cake.

Ted Bundy

Yes, I know Ted Bundy is a man but it would be unfair to imply that all fashion-obsessed serial killers are women.  Ted Bundy was obsessed with socks.  In fact, he reportedly aspired to acquire enough socks to wear a new pair every day and, at the time he was captured, was well on his way to reaching his goal by using stolen credit cards to go on shopping sprees and binge on new clothes (especially tube socks).

The Bottom Line on Money and Murder

I'm not talking about the desperately poor who kill an invalid child or a baby that can't be cared for.  I'm talking about the fairly well-to-do murderer who seeks out victims for the sake of getting more money and apparently some pleasure from the acts of homicide.

I think one hallmark of this sort of killer is the post-kill celebration.  The woman who gets a boob job or buys a new car within weeks of her husband's death is certainly worth a closer look.  Sure, it's the kind of celebration of freedom we might expect from a new divorcee, but rarely from a grief-stricken widow.  Her pain is too great and too overwhelming.

I'm not saying that compulsive shopping causes serial murder.  However, there are a number of serial killers whose obsession with money - and the things money can buy - most assuredly either contributed to the motive to commit murder, or served a celebratory purpose afterward.